Marifel Gomez was gearing up for a fundraising event at her daughter’s school when she had her eureka moment. She was trying to figure out an activity that would not only be fun for attendees, but also make a bit of money for the school. As the PTA’s fundraising chair, Marfiel wanted to maximize donations and make people smile in the process.
That’s when the idea of a photo booth popped into her head. She knew that these booths were always a hit, giving people a chance to let their guards down, act a bit silly, and have fun with props and over-the-top costumes. And she was right on the money. The photo booth was a wild success at the event and got her daughter’s school closer to its fundraising goal.
The booth also changed Marifel’s life.
“People really loved the booth, so I made a business out of it,” Marifel said. “We started out doing small events and weddings, and it really took off.”
But after a good six-year run, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and so many of the events and gatherings that made Marifel’s photo booth business a success were canceled or postponed. Marifel had been dabbling with personal shopping. She tried out Instacart in 2017, and, in 2019, she found Dumpling and started getting a few regular clients.
But after her photo booth income dried up, she began to hit the personal shopping market hard. And Marifel saw Dumpling’s platform as the clear winner, so she formed Shop with Marifel.
“I was able to set my own hours and have one-on-one relationships with my clients,” Marifel said. “You are really able to personalize the experience for your customers and learn about their tastes and preferences.”
This type of customer service was something Marifel knew a lot about. She grew a successful photo booth business out of catering to the specific needs of each of her clients, whether they wanted her to set up booths for a wedding, birthday party, or graduation celebration. Marifel brought this same attention to detail to her personal shopping business.
Onboarding New Clients and Establishing a Business Model
Marifel told us the reception to her new Pasadena-based personal shopping business was warm. She had attracted a few regular clients right off the bat. But many customers came to her after learning about the differentiators a Dumpling-powered business delivers.
“When I was delivering for Instacart, I always had people ask me about becoming their regular shopper—something not really possible on that platform,” Marifel said. “So Dumpling gave me the opportunity to say ‘yes’ to that question. People used to shopping with Instacart or Whole Foods through Amazon Prime were so excited to have a better option.”
Marifel found it pretty simple to onboard new clients, especially when they learned about the consistent, personalized service that Shop with Marifel could offer. Her personal shopping business grew fairly quickly. But as every business owner knows, the key to success is long-term thinking and customer retention.
“If you sign-up a new customer, there’s no guarantee that person will stay your customer,” Marifel said. “You have to set yourself apart.”
Communication & Going Above and Beyond Ensures Satisfaction
Because of her outgoing personality and ability to think outside the box, Marifel had no problem differentiating herself in Pasadena’s local personal shopping scene. She made it her mantra to really go above and beyond to serve her customers, even if that means going to IKEA to quell a Swedish meatball craving.
“I had a client last year who was pregnant and really wanted a plate of those IKEA meatballs,” Marifel laughed. “So I told her ‘No problem,’ and went and got her some. She really loved that. And I think all of my customers appreciate that kind of flexibility.”
And while not everyone has Marifel going to furniture stores to pick up meatballs, all of her clients appreciate how she maintains open and easy communication with them.
“I’d say it’s number one,” Marifel said. “I always communicate with clients throughout the shopping process, and especially at the beginning.”
Marifel also noted that a client’s first few orders are very important to getting to know that person’s tastes, what he or she might want as a product substitution, or even the frequency of communication he or she prefers.
“I like to know everything necessary,” she said. “For example, if a client has allergies, I need to determine the best replacement item if the request is out of stock. Taking pictures of products and substitutions also helps a lot with that. It’s nice to be able to send a photo of an item and have a back-and-forth with the client.”
One tip Marifel recommends to other personal shoppers is to do a quick survey of the store at the beginning of the shop to determine which items may need substituting. That makes it simple to send a list of unavailable items and photos of possible replacements right away. This not only speeds up the shopping process, but also helps streamline the customer experience.
“It makes it a bit easier to text them the information all at once,” she said. “Like, OK, this is what they don’t have, and here are the recommended substitutes. Some of the customers don’t want to be bothered over and over with a bunch of messages. And this really helps make it easy for them.”
Shop with Marifel’s Future is Bright: Marketing Strategies and a Continued Growth Trajectory
Marifel is dedicated to projecting an aura of professionalism when she’s shopping and serving customers. A few smart strategies help her do that and simultaneously get the word out about her business.
“I make branded t-shirts for my business,” she said. “I had all of the equipment for this from my time doing fundraising for my daughter’s school.”
Marifel told us the t-shirts really help her make a good impression with clients and cement the idea that Shop with Marifel is a legitimate business here to serve them. Marifel also hands out business cards to existing customers to further her word-of-mouth reach.
“The shirts and business cards give me more credibility,” she said. “Clients and potential customers can see that you’re actually a real business and not just some random person.”
Growing her business hasn’t been easy, but Marifel also noted that is hasn’t been that hard. The reason she appears to move so seamlessly and maintain client relationships is largely due to her approach to organization and forming goals.
“I make weekly monetary goals for myself, which means I rely a lot on returning customers,” Marifel said. “I know each week if I’m going to hit my goal or be in the ballpark. And that’s important for a business owner.”
This methodology really helps Marifel balance the books and plan for the future. It also helps her schedule, organize, and prepare for shops for different customers. And, really, it allows Marifel to anticipate what her paycheck will be like.
“You know, I’ll have my regular orders all scheduled out, and sometimes I’ll see a few extra hit the calendar,” she said. “That’s like gravy. Or more icing on the cake when that happens.”